On December 2, International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has warned that widespread exploitation of migrant workers is creating the conditions for slavery to flourish in Ireland.
Recent Guardian investigations exposed horrific exploitation of migrant fisherman in Ireland, and the MRCI warns that the fishing sector is not unique in this.
MRCI Legal Officer Virginija Petrauskaite stated, “I only wish we could say that it was unusual. The kind of exploitation and abuse that was uncovered on Ireland’s fishing boats is also taking place in other sectors: in domestic work, in care, in restaurants across Ireland. These workers shouldn’t have to wait for media exposés to trigger action. In fact, they simply can’t afford to wait: the levels of exploitation are at crisis point.”
Ms Petrauskaite continued, “We have dealt with some horrendous cases in recent months, where people were denied basic human rights, their passports were taken, they were paid a pittance or nothing at all, and were subjected to appalling threats and subhuman conditions. Exploitation, discrimination and racism are common in many sectors in Ireland; migrants care for our loved ones, prepare our food, and clean our houses and offices – their work is vital, but it is not valued. The fact that this exploitation is allowed to persist means cases of forced labour and slavery are more likely.”
The MRCI is calling for a set of straightforward measures to combat exploitation in all sectors. Ms Petrauskaite explained, “We need a regularisation for undocumented migrants to allow workers to come forward and expose hidden abuse; we need sectoral work permits so no one is tied to an exploitative employer; and we need an independent National Rapporteur to tackle human trafficking head on.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
In the last 7 years MRCI has dealt with over 220 Irish cases of trafficking for forced labour – a modern-day form of slavery.
In recent months, MRCI has examined 10 cases in a range of sectors including restaurants, home care, domestic work, security and car washes.
The failure to stamp out labour exploitation, including non-compliance with employment rights laws and wage theft, creates the conditions for extreme exploitation, trafficking and slavery to occur.